Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Zig-Zag Calorie Diet Approach

Why should you try it?

Lost some weight but couldn't manage to keep it off? Lost couple of kilograms and then stop losing any? Or did you stop losing weight at all after many dieting trials?

Well, if you faced any of these problems you are not alone, but that’s not the end of it; a different dieting approach has been recently used to avoid or overcome the incidence of such dieting issues, which is Zig-Zag diet.


What is Zig-Zag Diet?

As the name implies; Zig-Zag dieting means alternating between low and high caloric consumption throughout the week’s days, as opposite to regular caloric control that maintains the same number of calories almost every day.


Why the Zig-Zag diet?

Estimation indicates that 75%-90% of dieters who lose weight are expected to regain their lost weight within 1 to 3 years of completing their diets [1]. One of the reasons for that; that while regular diets reduce caloric intake and body fat, they also tend to reduce your muscle mass and hence your Basil Metabolic Rate BMR (especially when not combined with proper exercise program).

Declined BMR reduces your body’s ability to burn calories even at rest, slowing your fat burning attempts, or causing you to enter a steady state of weight despite dieting (condition known as plateauing), making you more exposed to weight gain. This is mostly noticed in individuals who yo-yo diet, or individuals who don’t change their caloric intake or expenditure for a long time.

By Zig-Zagging (or cycling) calories; you get the benefits of:

  • Keeping your BMR from going down [2],
  • Keeping your body guessing the upcoming caloric intake, prevent metabolic homeostasis or plateauing,
  • Losing body fat while maintaining muscle mass,
  • Adding variety and avoid boredom of eating the same amount of calories every day.


Who should use Zig-Zag diets?

The Zig-Zag approach of dieting is suitable for different fitness goals; whether to reduce body weight from fat, maintain body weight by losing fat and gaining muscle, or gaining weight as muscle. But it is especially helpful for persons who have been stuck in vicious circles of losing weight and regaining it, and those who have gone into plateauing.


How to lose fat by Zig-Zagging calories?

You can use on of the two following method to Zig-Zag your caloric intake to lose body fat.

Method one

Let’s say you weigh 70 kg with 20% body fat and want to reduce body fat, to do that you need to subtract 4.5 calories for each kilogram lean body weight of yours (that is 2 calories per pound of lean body weight) of your total caloric intake. See how to calculate this in steps [1]:

  • 20% body fat means 80% of your 70 kg are lean muscle mass, which equals 56 kg lean mass.
  • Multiply lean body mass with 4.5 (which is 56*4.4= 252 calories)
  • For 4-5 days (especially on days of more body activity and exercise) take off 250 calories from your daily caloric needs.
  • And for the other 2-3 days (on holidays and lack of activity days), add 250 calories to your daily caloric need.

This approach will make you lose weight at a relatively slow rate, but you would ensure that it is fat that you are losing not muscles, and not to put-down your metabolic rate. Any weight loss that exceeds 1 kg per week would jeopardies your hard earned muscle mass.

Also read: Rapid weight loss: is 3.5 kg per week possible?


Method two

  • Calculate the calories that you should be consuming to maintain your current weight, you can do that using Actual Metabolism Calculator, for example; it was 2300 kcal/day.
  • Determine your fat loss goal per week, let’s say 0.5 kg/week, since every 0.5 kg of fat almost equals 3500 Kcal, you need to create 3500 calories deficient diet per week, (using the traditional way; that means taking off 500 calories from each day’s intake, meaning consuming 1800 calories per day in our example).
  • To Zig-Zag your diet; distribute the calories throughout the week’s days in alternating pattern, some days more deficit that others.

As a result; a person who has a daily requirement of 2300, and want to lose 0.5 kg per week, his caloric throughout a week may look like this:

- Consuming 1500 kcal, 4 days (not necessarily in consecutive and especially in days of low physical activity).

- Consuming 2200 kcal, 3 days (not necessarily in consecutive and especially in days of higher physical activity).

Which method is better to use?

Both methods will make you lose body fat in the caloric cycling way, but the second method will help you lose weight faster since it more deficit in calories compared with the first one. The first method might be particularly helpful and recommended for persons who wish to lose only couple of kilograms.


Additional tip

Keep in mind that calories are not the whole deal; caloric reduction should come mainly from fats and simple carbohydrates, not protein. And always, always adhere to an appropriate exercise regime that helps you reach your goals faster.



[1] – Fredrick C. Hatfield. Fitness the complete guide. Edition 8.6.6, 2013.

[2] – Julie Y Kresta, Et .al. Effects of diet cycling on weight loss, fat loss and resting energy expenditure in women.  2010

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